Denton's Notebook: Tuesday, Feb. 19
By John Denton
February 19, 2013
ORLANDO – As he was leaving Houston on Saturday after playing in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge a night earlier, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic noticed all of the celebs pouring into the city in anticipation of the All-Star Game’s main attraction.
At that moment it hit Vucevic that he has to keep improving his game to get to the point where he’s someday a full-fledged all-star playing in the marquee event.
``That’s the goal for me and a dream of mine,’’ Vucevic said of possibly reaching the NBA All-Star Game. ``It would be a huge accomplishment to a part of the All-Star Game with all of the great players. So hopefully one day I’ll be able to make it.’’
Vucevic, who entered Tuesday’s game tied for second in the NBA in rebounding, was one of the standouts in the rookie-sophomore exhibition game with 15 points, four rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes. Vucevic made six of eight shots, including a playful 3-pointer from the wing. He called his shot in the days leading up to the event, promising that he would bury at least one 3-pointer.
Some of his time on the floor was against Magic teammate Andrew Nicholson, who scored six points and grabbed three rebounds. Both players have dunks over the other and traded plenty of trash talk.
``We talked a little bit of trash to each other because he got me and I got him,’’ Vucevic said. ``It was fun.’’
REDICK’S IMPROVEMENT: While Magic guard J.J. Redick doesn’t especially care for his name being bandied about in various trade rumors in the days before the Thursday NBA trade deadline, he is somewhat flattered by the interest he has received from various teams anxious to acquire him.
It’s quite a climb for Redick, who rarely played in his first two NBA seasons and has evolved into one of the NBA’s best reserves. Now, he’s to the point where’s he’s averaging career-highs in points (15.4 ppg.) and assists (4.4 apg.). That growth has become because of the way Redick vastly re-sculpted his body in the offseason and greatly improved his skills on the court.
``I am proud of improving every year. That is a point of pride,’’ Redick said. ``Anybody who has been around me in the offseason, they know why I improve every year. It’s annoying at times to (wife) Chelsea because she just wants me to relax. It’s hard for me to do that because I want to improve and I’m looking to improve. I’m trying to max out what my body can do in these next few years. It’s definitely taken a lot of work and I’ve been blessed to be in good situations and on good teams. This situation (with the Magic) has been good for me in a personal way in terms of my role and everything.’’
PLAYOFF FOES: Injuries and a couple of extended losing streaks have most likely doomed the Magic’s chances of making the playoffs, but they could still have an impact on the postseason picture with their daunting upcoming schedule.
Of the Magic’s remaining 29 games, 20 of those are against teams currently in the playoffs. And that doesn’t include the Los Angeles Lakers, who sat 3 ½ games back in the Western Conference going into Tuesday. Orlando still plays Miami three times, Oklahoma City twice, Chicago twice and Memphis twice.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said the difficult road ahead was a part of his message to the team before the all-star break. He knows that the Magic will have to be ready to play every night to be competitive against elite teams that are jockeying for playoff position.
``That was one of the things that I talked about before the break, that we really have to have ourselves prepared for every game because teams are going to be jockeying for position for playoff berths,’’ Vaughn said. ``And we’ll have no sympathy when they play against us. So that’s the mindset that we have to have.’’
ETC: Jerry Buss, who died on Monday after owning the Lakers for 34 years and leading the franchise to 10 championships, was honored before Tuesday’s game with a moment of silence. … Vucevic said that Vaughn joked with him that he never saw his 3-pointer in the all-star exhibition game because his DVR stopped recording the game prior to his shot. … Vaughn said that Tuesday’s opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats, are a perfect example of a team being unlucky in the draft and needing to keep winning as many games as possible. The Bobcats won just seven games last season and had the worst winning percentage in league history, but they slipped to No. 2 in the NBA Draft and missed out on Anthony Davis. Said Vaughn: ``(Losing) doesn’t guarantee you anything. What you can guarantee is what your approach will be every night. We want to be better this second half than we were in the first half.’’ … The Magic play the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in Texas. After having Thursday off, they play in Memphis on Friday and back in Orlando on Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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